The Health Services Executive is to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in all health service facilities from next month.
The decision was made after a detailed review of their safety and the impact of e- cigarettes on the HSE’s smoke-free campus policy.
Battery-powered e- cigarettes resemble traditional cigarettes but deliver nicotine via inhaled vapour.
While their benefits remain controversial, they remain unregulated in Ireland and their use is not covered by the workplace ban on smoking.
The HSE announced today the sale and use of e-cigarette at HSE facilities, including hospitals, will be banned from May 1st.
It said can only recommend safe and effective products and strategies for quitting smoking, and there currently was “no conclusive evidence” that e- cigarettes are safe for long-term use, or are effective as a smoking cessation aid.
Director Health and Wellbeing at the HSE, Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe said: “While we will keep this evidence under ongoing review, the e- cigarettes ban is being introduced as e- cigarettes pose a challenge to smoke-free campus enforcement and come with safety concerns for a healthcare environment.”
“Smoking is the single leading cause of illness in our nation, responsible for a range of respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases and cancers, and for over 5,200 deaths every year.”
“The Health Services are responsible for health promotion and caring for illnesses and disease. Ensuring that health service buildings and grounds are smoke-free is an integral part of our approach to reducing tobacco use and harm in Ireland.”
Dr O’Keeffe said quitting smoking was the best thing someone can do for their health.
Minister for Health James Reilly said last month he would like to see e-cigarettes being brought in on the basis of "purely medicinal advice".
He said the Government would “certainly” ban them for under-18s but suggested they may have a role in helping people to quit smoking.
Last year MEPs in Europe rejected a proposal to classify e-cigarettes as medicinal products.
Separately, the US Food and Drug Administration today proposed rules that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under 18, but would not restrict flavoured products, online sales or advertising, which public health advocates say attract children.
The long-awaited proposal would subject the $2 billion e-cigarette industry to federal regulation for the first time.
FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg said at a briefing that the proposal represented the first "foundational" step towards broader restrictions if scientific evidence shows they are needed to protect public health.
Critics of e-cigarette advertising say it risks introducing a new generation of young people to conventional cigarettes when little is known about the long-term health impact of the products. And they lamented the fact that limits were not included in the proposed rule.
"It's very disappointing because they don't do anything to rein in the wild-west marketing that is targeting kids," said Stanton Glantz, a professor at the Centre of Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California San Francisco. "They should not have been so timid." Hamburg said the current proposal "lays the foundation for many more actions and activities."
Vince Willmore, a spokesman for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, said the proposal "by no means does everything we think needs to be done, but it starts the process. What is critical now is that they finalize this rule and then move quickly to fill the gaps."
The industry remains unregulated here.